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Students urged to pursue government careers

BELLINGHAM – Students might be surprised by the variety of careers available in the public sector and should strongly consider working for government, state Chief Information Security Officer Vinod Brahmapuram told a cybersecurity class this week.

The state Office of Cybersecurity (OCS) made a daylong visit at Western Washington University on Feb. 19. OCS was there to congratulate a team of students – Chase Warren, Jack Stratton, Grant Barton, Ben Paros, Josh Stuifbergen and Charles Lewis – who recently placed first in the state at a U.S. Department of Energy CyberForce Competition held at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the Tri-Cities. 

OCS staff also held a table-top exercise to help students learn how to respond to a security incident and ran a cyber escape room that reinforces information security fundamentals.

Vinod took questions from students enrolled in Western’s cybersecurity program and met with faculty at the university as well as at Whatcom Community College.

During the Q&A session, Western students asked many questions about the type of work that OCS does, and also sought career advice.

“Not everyone understands the depth of government services and how much we rely on technology and cybersecurity to position those services,” Vinod told students. “I can guarantee you that whatever your passion is, there is a place for you in the public sector.”

Vinod noted he first started his career as a programmer and later became a business analyst before moving into cybersecurity.
Becoming a business analyst “was eye-opening for me because when I was a programmer, my brain was focused on the technology aspect. I was not able to make the connection of how technology impacted the business side,” he said, encouraging students to broaden their education beyond technology.

Cybersecurity leaders need to be able to translate the world of bits and bytes into business impacts that executives understand. “I always emphasize the need to improve your business skills, especially your business language skills,” he said.

Vinod told students that cyber threats continue to grow, and as a society, we must adapt.

“What does this mean? We have to take security a lot more seriously,” he said, urging students to use their future roles as cybersecurity professionals to “influence and change our culture.”